Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?
Isn’t the sound of French alluring? But what happens when you’re working in an environment where even compliments are tough to understand because the language is foreign to you?
Learn all about it in the second part of the interview with chef Sanjana (read Part I here) as she looks back at how she sowed the seed of La Folie and what sets it apart from the rest.
- 1. How did you come up with the name and concept of La Folie?
What began as a hobby when I was 14 soon germinated into a deeply passionate adventure. After completing my formal technical program in chocolate technology (ZDS - Solingen, Germany) and Food Management in the UK, I was certain that I wanted to pursue my Majors in Patisserie Arts from Ferrandi in France, where many aspiring pastry chefs aim to go.
Living in France, among some of the most renowned patisseries and chocolatiers, my passion became more than an obsession, almost a way of life.
One time I remember I was adding finishing touches to a few desserts for service at one of Pierre Hermé’s boutiques, when I heard someone comment from behind me, “C’est a la folie! C’est magnifique!” I didn’t know enough French back then to understand what this meant. I kept wondering about it and asked a few colleagues too. Then, my Sous Chef came up to me and exclaimed, “Bravo, Sanjana! As an internee, you’ve done an amazing job on the decoration and ‘a la folie’ was an expression for something exceptional, magnificent and madness in a good way.”
So, the expression ‘La Folie’ stuck with me that day onwards. It was something I heard chefs exclaim when they appreciated a well-made dessert, chocolate or saw great décor on pastry products. It’s this essence and the sensation of surrendering yourself to an experience that I aim to share across India through La Folie.
- 2. Are gourmet desserts getting their due in Mumbai?
Pastry chefs, not just in Mumbai but across India, are infusing their experiences into desserts and thereby, changing the mindset of consumers. The diners are now appreciating and indulging in gourmet desserts more than ever before. We, at La Folie, have been ahead of the curve and hope to see great strides in this movement as more patisseries open to fill up the niche business.
- 3. In this milieu, how does La Folie stand out?
As a tastemaker and craftswoman, my processes are unique and modern yet authentic. What makes La Folie exceptional is that we aim to deliver an experience where our customers get to taste sophisticated flavours using rare, world-class ingredients that are on par with the ones used by authentic patisseries and Michelin star restaurants around the world.
We differentiate ourselves by making our own craft chocolate with cacao beans of the finest origins and all natural ingredients. We’re also working on creating our unique, ethical supply chain for sourcing ingredients directly from farmers and cooperatives. Bold and strong products, chic packaging, modern and realistic photography… all of this gives us the competitive advantage to break through the clutter. There are no frills attached to our products. You pay for the excellence in quality and that’s what makes our gourmet offerings haute and unique.
- 4. How has La Folie’s brand vision evolved over time?
Change is inevitable and that’s what growth is also all about, I feel. A business strategy-cum-model needs to be dynamic while adhering to its core philosophy. We’ve always strived to deliver real indulgence with focus on sustainability. We began as a patisserie and branched out to introduce concepts of café boulangerie and chocolate boutiques around Mumbai. Today, we’ve expanded our vision to be a lifestyle brand in the gourmet segment.
We’ve channelised our mission to support indigenous cocoa farmers – in India and around the globe – by trading with them directly, ethically and at fair price. Now, as we craft our own chocolate from bean to bar, we have also included all natural ingredients across our range of products for the new-age consumer who believes in maintaining a conscious, healthy lifestyle.
- 5. If you were to describe La Folie in a sentence, what would it be?
It’s definitely a discovery of senses. This stems from the experience I had with my first client – a 10-year-old Indian boy with a passport stamped more than even a well-travelled journalist. My assignment was to transport him back to his favourite patisseries and restaurants in France. It was by chance that his family learnt about me when they had enquired at Pierre Hermé to order for a housewarming celebration. Their quantity and demand was rather too bespoke for a standardised patisserie and so, the family was directed to me, as I had returned to India by then. As I debuted my high tea offering at their new home, the young fellow came up to me and said: “Sanjana didi, I feel like I am back in Europe. You have made me discover that something so unique is available in our country!”
- 6. Has that become the brand’s USP?
Absolutely. It’s a discovery of senses via real indulgence. After all, you will truly taste the high quality of cacao in any of our 72% single origin dark chocolates made from beans sourced from Peru, Ecuador and India. Or the Marcona almonds from Spain that we use to make the authentic French patisserie-style
Macarons and of course, La Folie’s signature entremet [textural dessert] called Infinite Caramel!
The other USP would be our consistency to deliver exceptionally delicious treats as we have control over the raw material and make our own chocolates and sourdough breads in our micro-factory in Mumbai.
Also read our blog on 'How we make our sourdough'